Posts Tagged ‘female gamers’

I’m a nerd, a geek, a dork, whatever you want to call it; I was there when perms, leggings and glasses made you a social outcast, not a demigod. I’m old school with added old, I floundered through the early nineties on a diet of snickers and speed metal and could name the cast members from Deep Space Nine and Xena whilst dreaming of settling down in Sunnydale. Nerd-dom has seen me get my eyes lasered only to return to glasses within a year as I missed being… me. It seems that the bit of me that I spent so long trying to distance myself from was actually the awesome part; I would be huge in Japan.

Part of this identity that I’m both stuck with, and in love with, is gaming. My early days of gaming  were the seriously geeky – Doom and Wolfenstein – I was a girl that liked tech, which should have made me cool but instead it made me the ‘go-to’ person when the photocopier broke. Even so, it wasn’t until the arrival of my other half a few years ago that my game playing moved up a notch. If games have now become an addiction, then he was most certainly my pimp, feeding me a steady diet of Xbox until I craved a few hours of furious button mashing more than an alcohol-soaked night on the town. Before him gaming was a hit and miss affair, suffering from the twin evils of buying games because I liked the cover art or buying them because they were cheap, both these sins I now atone for. I have seen the light – it’s ‘how it plays’ not just what it plays.

Take the word ‘Games’: it’s full of connotations like hopscotch, tag and immaturity; it’s a child’s world and as adults we are supposed to leave the ‘games’ behind. More troublesome is the absence of suitable language to describe what gaming has become. Its more than playground tactics, it’s a rich tapestry that is getting progressively nearer the artistic experience it aspires to be. We are being submerged in new worlds where, while building an army, we may actually rebuild ourselves; where instant feedback reminds us how good we are or how great.

While most literature on gaming and women seems woefully out of date, the same themes raise their heads time after time:

It’s sexist: women are set dressing or damsels to be rescued and they’re digitally enhanced to the point of being unable to tie their own shoe laces.

I have to question the gaming experiences of people who make these statements. Most new games offer the chance to modify gender, looks and attributes of characters, allowing the player to project themselves into the game. We have gone beyond the stock female character with set ‘womanly ways’. It’s a clever investment with over 45% of gamers in the US now female, it’s the way of the future. I played through Dragon Age as a female character who was, just as if I had played as a male, capable of having sexual relationships with any of the male or female characters within the game, a point missed out on by the hysterical Luddites usually so willing to bash gaming as a sort of morality drain. In terms of bodies, male characters have traditionally been over-enhanced, so when females are, I fail to see a clear delineation – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. As games move from mere point scorers to interactive pieces – where your decisions impact on the game itself – there is also development of more believable characters, better scripts and serious narratives. Gaming is breaking out; it’s becoming mainstream. Even Lara Croft has received a ‘down-sizing’ . I’ve happily spent nights snuggled up with himself blowing the heads off zombies in Resident Evil. I remember how proud I was overhearing my kid and his friends playing mutli-player on Left 4 Dead, the auto shuffle left my son as the female “Ha, ha, you’re the girl” said one of his less progressive mates, to which my son replied ‘Zoe kicks more ass than any of the fellas, she’s class, I’m glad I got her’ . In the battle of the sexes games are a new playground, one where both characters have equal ability, strength and stamina.

They are excessively violent and breed aggression

As somebody who spends at least an hour in traffic every day there is no difference between my frustration and aggression levels either before or since gaming. I am a self-confessed light touch who cries over Lyons Tea adverts at Christmas, but I break out a huge grin when sniping yanks from a watchtower in Halo Reach. I am an animal lover with a wardrobe full of clothing covered in dog and cat hair to prove it, who killed all the buffalo on the range in Red Dead Redemption just to earn an achievement; I kick chickens in Fable just to see them soar.

I also have to deal with the consequences of those actions within each game: good or evil you will eventually have to pay for your wrong doing. Shooting civilians, whipping your horse too much, stealing or debauchery will eventually earn you a payback, it’s a game after all and not all decisions are winning ones – short term gains usually cost in the long term. Contrast this with films where you are a passive viewer and unable to act one way or another to change what you’re forced to watch, a game comes with consequences. After a billion hours spent in one game I was left with the penultimate dilemma to save humanity or my dog…. my choice haunted me for days.

Games involve imagined characters, they may be semi-realistic but they are not real, they involve you, sometimes scare you and most certainly stir emotions. By involving the player, they are not merely a gore fest to be feasted upon. They force you to overcome, to survive and most importantly, to come back for more. They teach you persistence and all for those little rewards, a level cleared, a boss killed, a little noise of an achievement earned. For those still shaking their heads reading this, I’m an adult; I have a choice in what I want to do with my spare time. These games I speak of are not designed for children, they are made for adults by adults, the majority of games are made for the 15+ age group, so unless you want to tell me that every film made for an adult audience should also be censored; there’s no point in being upset that I like killing virtual stuff, with katanas and rocket launchers.

They are a waste of time…

While I have thus far avoided the crack cocaine of gaming that is World of Warcraft I can attest to the addictive nature of good games. I sometimes find my mind wandering back to a character and wishing I could play some more with them, there just wasn’t enough cake,  I ate it all. I don’t have a TV in my house,  and I don’t miss it. Games come along every few months and there’s spike in the electricity bill but I am never at the mercy of advertisers because I’m never sold anything in a game.  I can play as Lara Croft and for a while I AM Lara croft, I’m not just buying into her image, I’m actually her, for she without me is just a doll, an empty being, I complete her and she allows me to complete one handed wall climbs over flaming pits of molten lava. It’s it’s a win-win situation. So I will continue to play games, I may tut-tut at pink Nintendo or games dressed up as benign time wasters like Farmville but really, they just giving women and girls an ‘in’. The more girls on board the better games will be, I want to play Assassin’s Creed with a female lead; I want my gamer score to exceed that of my son; I want to go over to a  female friend’s house have a two player rampage in Modern Warfare 2. All this is not far off and the only question left is whether you have pre-ordered your copy?

The Barbarian knows the power of steel but will often use spellcheck as an effective way of vanquishing foes. The Barbarian has raised a male heir on her own but is currently accepting underwear on her bathroom floor from another member of that gender. The Barbarian uses frequent bouts bad language which embarrass her mother, superiors and son to articulate her thoughts about many things. The Barbarian has no time for people who talk about themselves in the third person. She blogs at www.thebarbariangoesforth.blogspot.com and is on Twitter: @dabarbarian.

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